I heard somewhere that it’s easier to dream lucidly as a couple. If, before going to sleep, you turn to your lover and say, “Darling, tonight let’s dream of boats,” and then you both go to sleep, the odds are much greater that you will both dream of boats.
The Cutting Ball Theater’s production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs (a new translation by Rob Melrose, directed by Annie Elias) is the story of a superannuated couple who create a new reality together as they fight off the tedium and irrelevance of old age. They live in a crumbling apartment building on an island, somewhere—according to The Old Man, Paris was destroyed years ago, if it ever existed at all. Their only contact with the outside world is the music (Edith Piaf or a clone) that crackles through the ancient radio (sound design by Theodore J.H. Hulsker). But since the two are alone onstage for most of the play, even the music might be a shared delusion.
At first, the atmosphere almost makes one sleepy—we slip into what feels like a long-settled routine. David Sinaiko as The Old Man sits onstage gazing out the window as the audience files in. You have the feeling he’s been sitting there for years. Michael Locher’s set is comfortably shabby, with its water-stained pink wallpaper and faded furniture. The Chairs begins slowly—in their first exchange, The Old Woman (Tamar Cohn) begs The Old Man to come away from the window and take a seat in a chair. Reluctantly, he agrees, and the couple edge carefully over to the two chairs in the center of the stage and sit down in the same one, with Sinaiko (kittenish and Keatonesque) on Cohn’s lap. Their clothes (costume design by Sarah Roland) add to the production’s dreaminess. Sinaiko wears absurd thigh-high rubber waders, which contribute to the sluggish physicality of his role, while Cohn flounces about in a fur coat and faded, flowered housedress.